A Horse With No Name

Hello everyone .. and Happy B-Day Amy,

Sam

Journal from today, April 27th,

S 08 Deg 22′ / W 123 Deg 56′

890 miles from the Marquesas:

Tuesday, April 27, 2004:

S    08o21′ W 123o48′

(Day 15 at sea: 2075 nautical miles from the Galapagos Islands, 891 from

Les Iles Marquises a.k.a. Marquesas)

Sitting on watch last night, I thought of the lyrics from America’s A Horse with No Name: “… The ocean is a desert with its life under ground, the perfect disguise above …”1 During the voyage of the Lillian B., this has been the case. We have not seen the abundance of sea life described so extensively in Thor Heyerdahl’s epic Pacific tale Kon Tiki. Heyerdahl’s account includes numerous encounters and pictures of sharks, tuna, dolphins, whales, whale sharks, turtles, and other wondrous creatures. Except for the abundant variety of life in the Galapagos, we have seen only a few dolphins. Even our efforts at fishing over the last 4000 miles of ocean have resulted in only one small, albeit delicious, Mahi Mahi. Looking out over the water, I think how fascinating it would be if the sea were to become as transparent as air, and we could suddenly see the teaming life that must surely fill the waters at every depth and in every direction.

The occasional dolphin

For us, the only indication of the life below is the occasional eruption of flying fish. These small fish, with their spiny transparent wings, blue and silver in color, are narrow in width and range up to at least 8 inches in length. During various times of the day, dozens of these fish will spring in unison from the surface of the water, taking temporary sanctuary in the atmosphere. The larger will skim above the surface of the waves for at least a hundred yards, using their tails to skip back skyward when they get too low to the surface. At night, this method of escape spells doom for those unfortunate enough to fly onto Lillian’s deck. In the morning, we typically have two or more flying fish stranded on board.  If the waves have been high enough to generate spray, we will also find the occasional squid, no more than four inches long.

Flying Fish on Plate

The flying fish are unceremoniously buried at sea or used as bait, since they reportedly have a strong fishy taste and don’t appear to have much flesh on them, in any case. The squid, however, get collected with enthusiasm by Peter, who accumulates them in the freezer compartment to be cleaned, sliced, and sautéed. Thus, the “slimy things with slimy legs” reviled in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner are for us a delicious meal. Hopefully, as we near the Marquesas we will catch more fish and sight some of the apparently elusive creatures of the Pacific. Until then, however, we’ll have to be content with whatever hops on board in the middle of the night.

Footnote 1: (At least, this is how I remember the lyrics.)

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